By Cecelia Devlin.

What can sickness mean?

Two days ago, I went to bed with the imprint of a status from a friend on my eyelids. “Trapped underneath Martin Place,” it read. “I am safe, but just in case…I love you all”.

The words didn’t make sense. I scrolled furiously through the rest of my Facebook feed, agitated by the discovery.
What the fuck is going on?
Fragments of to-the-minute reporting slide through my vision. It’s almost 2am. The situation seems…I don’t know how the situation seems. I know I don’t want to hear about it from Facebook. I go to sleep.

The next day when I wake up I immediately check my friend’s page for an update. She has been evacuated. Seven hours ago, according to the time stamp. She is safe. I am unsure of what I would have done if she weren’t. From the kernel of the personal I track my way outwards. What the fuck is going on? I read more statuses, follow links to more articles. I spend most of the day this way.

By 3pm darkness falls again and I barely notice. I am hunched over my laptop in a cafe, nose inches from the screen. My textbook lies discarded beside me, along with my productivity. My stomach has threaded itself into knots, my chest hammers. I start to chew my nails. I never chew my nails.


Why does the white media use such ludicrous language when referring to violence? Do we think we’re living in a fucking Tom Cruise film?

Lindt cafe.
Each report sounds like an absurd advertisement.


ISIS flag spotted-
No it’s not. That doesn’t make sense.
More racism, heavy lashings of sensationalist reporting. More outpourings of anti-Islamophobic sentiments from friends. Why am I so relieved?

I’ll ride with you.
And there’s always one:


The cramps have become more acute. I glance at my coffee cup – I feel like I’ve had 20 serves, but I’ve barely touched one.

My guts seem to be churning to compensate for my body’s ineffectual static.

My hands hover over the keyboard. I’m switching between 10 open tabs on THE SYDNEY SIEGE and my email inbox, where a disjointed discourse of another variety is taking place.

A lover’s words filter through the spectacle, creating a chaos of their own.

[What are you asking me?]
[You’re not exactly providing a narrative]
[Will I see you before…?]
[Kristeva’s semiotic]
[Words are foreplay]
[Our narrative should be sparkly]
[Perhaps we are speaking in oppositions?]

My stomach twists.
[I’m biting my nails, that’s my semiotic.]
/Unsaid: I want you/
[Language barrier]
I gnaw at the tear in my left thumbnail.

Police are communicating…
I’ll ride with you.

Well, I can’t, but I’ll share a link. How’s that?

[These days, compassion is a minefield.]
I’m doubled over now.

I open yet another window – a conversation between three friends, in three different cities. We talk about disconnection, about what it means to be a genuine ‘ally’ at a distance. I feel like a phoney and a white-knighting hysteric, but I realise that silent gut churning does not only equate to complacency. Listening and waiting can be active positions. I start to feel calmer.

I go home and undress. I don’t want to eat, but I do.

I stretch out on my bed, my mind working the knots in my guts with its careful fingers. My anxieties begin to pool around me on the floor.

She, the island.


Over? For who?

I can offer nothing but the sickness in my body and a suspended sense of intent. A poised ear, too many clicks away.

I wonder how much I’ve really missed.